During my time volunteering at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) I was invited to deliver a seminar for high school students about science. The IMB was hosting a group of Armenian high school students who were visiting the institute as part of their science curriculum to see how scientific research is conducted in a research institution. I was asked if I could do a talk for them about science, as my volunteering coincided with their visit. I agreed, as I am keen to promote science to young people, so that I can inspire a future generation of scientists.
I decided to make my talk about my scientific career, as I have worked as both a research scientist in a university, and as an analytical scientist in a hospital, and so there is a good contrast to be made between them. Analytical laboratories like in hospitals work on the basis of “the product of a laboratory is data”, as in analytical laboratories are paid to generate data about various samples for clients, whereas research laboratories work on the basis of generating data to advance the knowledge and understanding of phenomena. I wanted to discuss both of these areas, as both types of science are rewarding scientific careers which employ the same best scientific practices.
I began my talk with some background about me (including that I was a AVC volunteer, and that I loved Armenia), and a statement “yes chem. Khoshum Hayeren bayts yes soverum em Hayeren daseri het” which means “I don’t speak Armenian, but I am learning Armenian with classes”. I delivered my talk in a chronological format covering my scientific experiences, so I began with my PhD and post doctoral work in leucine zipper engineering. This also described the scientific education I have undertaken during my career, which I felt was important to describe to aspiring scientists when it came to them considering higher education opportunities. Also while describing these academic research projects I could discuss the publications that resulted from them, and the long term applications that I hope will results from this research (in this case novel drug design and protein engineering methods). These are more familiar aspects of science to an audience, scientific research has much more prominence in the media, but it is by no means the only career available for scientists.
After describing my research background I talked about my the current role in the NHS as a clinical bioinformatician, and how scientists work in the health service. This was good to include, as although research positions are the most prominent scientific jobs, there are many more jobs available in analytical laboratories, and a lof of important applications of science are carried out in them for a wide range of industries. However despite this contrast, I wanted to emphasize that healthcare science applies many of the same diligent practices as research does, and that the same scientific principles and attitudes are employed in both settings, and what that means in day to day practice.
I think my talk was well received, and I hope that I inspired the students to consider scientific careers in the future. The audience particularly found what I said about the UK's health service interesting, as Armenia does not have an integrated health service in the same way that the UK has, and nor healthcare scientists employed in the same professional capacity in Armenia. Also as this was in my last week in Armenia I enjoyed the opportunity to express my appreciation of the country and the time I'd spent there and give something back to the country that had welcomed me so warmly.